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Four hypnosis and NLP techniques for managing (and even eliminating) chronic pain.

What is Chronic Pain?

Not all pain is bad. Acute pain is the body’s natural way to let the brain know there’s an emergency or a problem that needs tending to. It’s what we experience when we get a cut, scrape, burn, sprain, or broken bone. We might also feel acute pain when one of our organs or biological systems stops functioning properly. When we feel acute pain, it’s a signal that something’s wrong and we need to do something about it right away.

Chronic pain, on the other hand, is the body’s emergency notification system gone haywire. Pain that lasts longer than 3 to 6 months is generally considered to be chronic pain. People who experience chronic pain can also suffer from anxiety, stress, sleep depravation, depression, and drug addiction. On top of all that, they are often stigmatized and shamed by medical professionals, who sometimes go as far as tell the chronic pain sufferer that they’re just making it all up in their head.

Hypnosis for Chronic Pain

Fortunately, there are options for dealing with chronic pain symptoms. More and more, hypnosis is being recognized as an effective way to treat, manage, and even eliminate chronic pain.*

There are many techniques that can be applied to chronic pain symptoms in or out of a formal hypnosis session. Here are four of them…

    • Imagining a pain dial In this technique, the person can visualize controlling the intensity of the pain by turning an imaginary dial or knob. First, the pain is increased. This helps the person recognize that they have some agency over how pain is experienced. It then follows logically that if the pain can be increased, then it can also be decreased. People often experience a significant reduction in the intensity of pain when using this technique.
    • Glove anesthesia While in the trance state, the hypnotist suggests a feeling of tingling numbness in the hand or other part of the body. This can provide adequate anesthesia for dental procedures and minor surgeries as well as chronic pain.
    • Moving pain around the body Oftentimes, it is possible to suggest that the person imagine moving the painful sensation to different parts of the body. As in the pain dial technique, this reinforces the idea of agency.
    • Disassociation. Dissociation can be achieved using guided imagery and visualization. While in trance the person will be asked to imagine themselves in a calm, peaceful, and safe place. This process helps the person dissociate from the painful sensations and focus on more pleasant feelings.

Chronic pain can also be rooted in, or reinforced by, past trauma and other emotional causes. Painful relationship breakups, getting fired from a job, or being in a traumatic accident can all create powerful emotional associations with acute pain symptoms. If those emotional wounds are left unresolved, the pain symptoms can linger long after the traumatic event has passed. In hypnosis, it is possible to bring healing to those emotional wounds and, in many cases, release the physical pain symptoms as well.

No matter what the causes of chronic pain, it can be highly beneficial to include hypnosis as part of a comprehensive strategy to finding healing and relief. Ask your doctor or therapist about collaborating with a hypnotist or hypnotherapist.

*Jensen, M. P., & Patterson, D. R. (2014). Hypnotic approaches for chronic pain management: Clinical implications of recent research findings. American Psychologist, 69(2), 167–177.